|Dakar 2010: Nissen - "You’ve always got to stay cool-headed".|
Volkswagen shows a positive mid-point track record at the Dakar Rally: Three of the five Race Touareg cars that started to the Dakar are clearly leading the world’s toughest rally on its only rest day. After seven of 14 legs Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) are ranking 11m 03s ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) and 22m 06s in front of Mark Miller/Ralph Pitchford (USA/ZA). Three stage wins have so far gone to Volkswagen, on four days one of the driver/co-driver pairings with TDI power led the event.
The legendary motorsport cross-country marathon put extreme demands on "man and material" during the first rally week: On the first seven legs from Buenos Aires (Argentina) via Iquique to Antofagasta (both in Chile) the rally featured quick sections as well as dizzying altitudes of up to 4,726 metres above mean sea level during the first crossing of the Andes. Deep and soft sand, towering dunes, steep mountain ranges and endless scree fields are again making the desert classic the greatest challenge motorsport has to offer.
The extreme demands took a toll on Volkswagen too. The title defenders Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D) lost several hours on the third stage due to damage that occurred as the consequence of an accident. On the sixth rally day the Brazilian duo Maurício Neves/Clécio Maestrelli retired due to injuries suffered in an accident.
Kris Nissen (Volkswagen Motorsport Director): "My assessment after the first seven of 14 Dakar days? First of all: The competition is tough, particularly the X-raid team and Stéphane Peterhansel are fast. Secondly: The first half of the rally was harder than expected. And thirdly: Everyone in the team is doing an outstanding job. I´m proud of each and every one in the squad. We´re leading this extremely tough competition with three vehicles. This means that we´ve achieved a lot but haven´t won anything yet. The following will apply to the coming seven stages as it has before: You´ve always got to stay cool-headed at the Dakar. Only then will you have a chance to be at the very front in the end as well. The rest day is just a snapshot."
Giniel de Villiers (ZA): "Our first rally week was anything but perfect. We lost a lot of time as a result of many small mishaps but particularly due to an accident. We´re no longer in the race for Dakar victory. But that´s the Dakar: hard and unrelenting. The main thing that counts for us is finishing each leg and being on the spot if one of our team-mates needs help."
Dirk von Zitzewitz (D): "This is definitely not our rally. After a number of problems we don´t have any more chances of successfully defending our title. But in no way does this apply to the entire Volkswagen team. That three ‘blue´ vehicles are ranking in the top three positions gives the squad an outstanding starting base for the second rally week. My driver Giniel de Villiers and I will give all we´ve got to help our team-mates in the title defence project."
Carlos Sainz (E): "The first half of the Dakar was positive for us in every respect. We´re leading the rally after extremely tough stages ahead of two team-mates. The Race Touareg is running like clockwork - no matter whether in soft and deep sand, on gravel or on stony ground. So, all in all, there´s plenty of reason to be happy - as well as a big ‘but´: We´ve merely finished half of the rally."
Lucas Cruz (E): "It´s hard to sum up the first seven Dakar days in just a few words. The competitive level is extremely high. None of the drivers is in control of the pace; each team has also had to cope with setbacks. This shows that this Dakar is tough, even tougher than last year. It requires maximum consistency and a driving style that is focused on taking it easy on the material while being quick in the process. It´s still a long way to Buenos Aires."
Mark Miller (USA): "Volkswagen´s starting base for the remaining stages is outstanding, and that´s all you can ask for. One, two and three - the Race Touareg has proved the characteristics that made it excel at the past Dakar as well: being the fastest as well as the most reliable cross-country rally vehicle. And to be honest: Ralph Pitchford and I´ve had to suffer a few minor setbacks and would like to be in a slightly better position in the overall standings. But we can still work our way torwards some more during the second week. That´s our goal."
Ralph Pitchford (ZA): "The first Dakar stages were hard, definitely much harder than last year. It makes ultimate demands on ‘man and material´. My driver Mark Miller managed achieved the balancing act between fast and gentle driving. Added to this is the total sturdiness of the Race Touareg, which successfully handles even the toughest tests. Mark and I´ve got a good starting base. I´m already looking forward to the second week and the chance of perhaps improving our third place even further."
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q): "We delivered a good team performance on the first seven stages. Four Race Touareg cars are still in the race and the starting base with our one-two-three lead is excellent. My co-driver Timo Gottschalk and I are within a striking distance of the overall lead as well. Even though the remaining legs will be anything but easy we continue aiming for Dakar victory. But to achieve it, it´s necessary to proceed with prudence and show no weaknesses."
Timo Gottschalk (D): "For my driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and me this Dakar has had many ups as well as a few downs. Still, our starting base is good and the rally has not been decided yet by a long shot. It´s hard to make a prediction - considering how often the lead has changed. In any event, we want to have our say in the fight for overall victory. But that means we´ve got to remain patient in the second week too."
Maurício Neves (BR): "Unfortunately, for me and Clécio Maestrelli the Dakar dream ended all too soon. On the sixth stage we overlooked a hole in the dust and rolled over several times. I fractured four ribs in the process. But that sounds worse than it is because, considering the severity of the accident, I suffered only minor injuries thanks to the sturdiness of the Race Touareg. It´s too bad for the team for whose work our arrival at the finish in Buenos Aires would have been a great reward."
Clécio Maestrelli (BR): "That we retired so early is a bitter pill. The Dakar Rally is a great experience and we really enjoyed the days up to our accident. My thanks go to the Volkswagen squad who gave us this opportunity."
2010/01/11 | 10:59 CET | Editor: MR/HS/VW/S.Moser